Tag Archives: Challenger Disaster

Reagan Consoles a Nation

Reagan Giving Challenger Address

The night of the Challenger disaster (January 28, 1986) President Ronald Reagan rescheduled his State of the Union address and gave a national address (written by Peggy Noonan) on the Challenger disaster  from the Oval Office of the White House.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I’d planned to speak to you tonight to report on the state of the Union, but the events of earlier today have led me to change those plans. Today is a day for mourning and remembering. Nancy and I are pained to the core by the tragedy of the shuttle Challenger. We know we share this pain with all of the people of our country. This is truly a national loss.

Nineteen years ago, almost to the day, we lost three astronauts in a terrible accident on the ground. But we’ve never lost an astronaut in flight; we’ve never had a tragedy like this. And perhaps we’ve forgotten the courage it took for the crew of the shuttle. But they, the Challenger Seven, were aware of the dangers, overcame them and did their jobs brilliantly. We mourn seven heroes: Michael Smith, Dick Scobee, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe. We mourn their loss as a nation together.

For the families of the seven: we cannot bear, as you do, the full impact of this tragedy. But we feel the loss, and we’re thinking about you so very much. Your loved ones were daring and brave, and they had that special grace, that special spirit that says, “Give me a challenge, and I’ll meet it with joy.” They had a hunger to explore the universe and discover its truths. They wished to serve, and they did. They served all of us. We’ve grown used to wonders in this century. It’s hard to dazzle us. But for 25 years the United States space program has been doing just that. We’ve grown used to the idea of space, and perhaps we forget that we’ve only just begun. We’re still pioneers. They, the members of the Challenger crew, were pioneers.

And I want to say something to the schoolchildren of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle’s takeoff. I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It’s all part of the process of exploration and discovery. It’s all part of taking a chance and expanding man’s horizons. The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we’ll continue to follow them.

I’ve always had great faith in and respect for our space program, and what happened today does nothing to diminish it. We don’t hide our space program. We don’t keep secrets and cover things up. We do it all up front and in public. That’s the way freedom is, and we wouldn’t change it for a minute. We’ll continue our quest in space. There will be more shuttle flights and more shuttle crews and, yes, more volunteers, more civilians, more teachers in space. Nothing ends here; our hopes and our journeys continue. I want to add that I wish I could talk to every man and woman who works for NASA or who worked on this mission and tell them: “Your dedication and professionalism have moved and impressed us for decades. And we know of your anguish. We share it.”

There’s a coincidence today. On this day 390 years ago, the great explorer Sir Francis Drake died aboard ship off the coast of Panama. In his lifetime the great frontiers were the oceans, and an historian later said, “He lived by the sea, died on it, and was buried in it.” Well today we can say of the Challenger crew: Their dedication was, like Drake’s, complete.

The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and “slipped the surly bonds of earth” to “touch the face of God.”

Thank you.

Tomorrow,  High Tech Tech    Rita Bay

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The Challenger Disaster

The Challenger Crew

On January 28, 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger launched with astronauts Michael Smith, Dick Scobee, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe. The press coverage for the flight and launch was extensive because teacher Christa McAuliffe was the first teacher of the Teacher in Space Project to travel into space.


The Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart 73 seconds into its flight at 11:38 EST at 48,000 feet.  The Shuttle disintegrated over the Atlantic Ocean, resulting in the deaths of its seven crew members.  The right solid rocket booster (SRB) O-ring seal (which was not certified to function at the frigid 18 degrees of the launch day) failed at liftoff, allowing pressurized hot gas from within the solid rocket motor to escape outside and come into contact with and caused the failure of the adjacent SRB attachment hardware and the external fuel tank.  Aerodynamic forces of 20 Gs promptly broke up the orbiter.

Challenger Breaks Apart

The shuttle had no escape system and the astronauts did not survive the 200 mph impact of the crew compartment with the ocean surface. The crew compartment and many other vehicle fragments were recovered from the ocean floor.  The final report concluded that the cause of death of the astronauts could not be determined.  Their deaths plunged the nation into mourning.  President Reagan consoled the nation when he spoke soon after the incident.

Tomorrow, President Reagan Consoles a Nation   Rita Bay

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